Senators call on NRC to accelerate rulemaking on advanced reactor technologies

Published on May 19, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators recently called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to accelerate rule to establish a regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

The lawmakers — including Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) – point out that the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) requires the commission to establish a regulatory framework for innovators to develop advanced nuclear technologies.

“The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) requires the NRC to complete a rulemaking to license and regulate these technologies not later than December 31, 2027,” the senators wrote to NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki. “We strongly encourage the Commission to identify actions to accelerate the development of this technology-inclusive regulatory framework prior to the statutory deadline.”

The senators said that advanced nuclear reactors are expected to be smaller, safer, and more efficient, while some may even be able to re-use spent nuclear fuel.

“More than fifty advanced reactor designs are in different phases of development in the United States. Several developers have initiated licensing activities,” they wrote. “The first design certification for a small modular reactor (SMR) is on track to be issued later this year. Two other SMR designs are in the pre-application phase. The NRC has also identified more than twenty potential near-term advanced non-water reactor applicants, representing at least seven unique reactor designs. In March, the NRC received the first application for a non-water reactor, and three more applications for novel designs are expected by the end of this year.”

Congress has appropriated nearly $40 million, including $15 million in FY 2020, to develop this new rule. Appropriations are authorized through 2024.